Meditation Retreats

Meditation May Help Boost Immunity to Viruses •

According to a new study led by the University of Florida, “inner engineering” practices like meditation and yoga can significantly boost our immune systems and help us fight off viruses like SARS-CoV-2 or diseases like cancer or multiple sclerosis. This is the first large-scale genomic study showing robust immune system activation after a week of intense meditation in the context of an advanced inner engineering retreat.

Meditation retreats have become increasingly popular in recent years as more and more people seek relaxation from their busy lives. While the positive mental effects of meditation are well known, much less is known about the molecular and genetic effects of such practices.

To clarify the effects of meditation on the body, University of Florida researchers examined the genetic profiles of 388 samples collected from 106 people who attended the Inner Engineering Retreat at the Isha Institute of Inner-Sciences in McMinville, Tennessee, in April. had participated in 2018. During this retreat, the participants had to remain completely silent for eight days, meditate at least 10 hours a day, only eat vegan and have a very regular sleep schedule.

Scientists collected blood samples from participants both before and after the retreat. Their results were impressive: 220 genes directly related to the immune response showed increased activity after the retreat, including 68 genes associated with interferon signaling, a crucial part of the body’s antiviral and anticancer responses.

“What we found was that several genes associated with the immune system were activated – dramatically – when you perform inner engineering practices,” said the study’s lead author Vijayendran Chandran, assistant professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at the University of Florida. “This is the first time anyone has shown that meditation can increase your interferon signaling. It shows a way to voluntarily influence the immune system without drugs.”

According to Professor Chandran, these findings could have potential implications for many immune-related diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and COVID-19. For example, since it is already known that mild to severe COVID-19 usually causes massive imbalances in interferon signaling, meditation could help boost our body’s defenses against SARS-CoV-2 and other related viruses.

More research is needed to examine whether less intense meditation regimes spread out over longer periods of time can also boost immunity and protection against multiple health issues.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By Andrei Ionescu, contributor

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